Harnett Central took a Tri-County Six 3-A Conference varsity basketball sweep at Harnett County rival Western Harnett on Tuesday night, with Central’s girls taking a season sweep over Western and Central’s boys picking up their first win of the season.
Harnett Central held off Western Harnett 53-49 in the boys game for its first win of the season.
“I think it’s kind of an understatement to say that we really needed a win,” said Harnett Central boys coach Will Gage. “In a couple of our losses that were close, I told our guys that I thought we didn’t play well enough to win. And tonight, I thought we did. I thought that even though, maybe the execution wasn’t there every time, I thought that when we needed to, we dug in defensively. I thought at times we took good shots, even when we missed them. I thought that everybody had their head in the game a little bit better.”
Western Harnett boys coach Seth Womble said Central was able to establish and control the pace of the game.
“I thought they controlled the game,” Womble said. “We wanted to mix some things up defensively and they made us a little one-dimensional on defense. We could never get deep enough into the lead to feel comfortable. They set control of the pace and we just couldn’t cut the lead for us to take control of the game. That was big for their momentum and hurtful for ours. It was a frustrating loss, but we’ve got another game Friday and two practices this week for us to get better.”
Junior Xavier Bailey had 16 points, senior Khalil Cameron had 12 points and junior Xavier Harris had 10 points to lead the Trojans (1-5, 1-3).
Quez Jones had eight points. Cohen Walker had five points. Johnathan Patterson had two points.
Junior Christian Fielden had 19 points and senior Ethan Lank had 15 points to lead the Eagles (1-7, 1-5).
“They know that they can go out there and hit some of those shots,” Womble said. “I’m trying to stress to both of those guys to not be one-dimensional, because both of those guys can use their fakes and score inside, as well. I think if they can pick and choose sometimes and mix their games up it helps them more. But those guys hit some great shots tonight and I’m looking forward to seeing them hit some more great shots on Friday.”
Josiah Smith had six points. Misha-El Vines had four points. Sebastian Branford had three points. Ian Bristow had two points.
After Central led 15-9 at the end of the first quarter and 26-20 at halftime, Western outscored Central 10-6 in the third to cut the lead to two.
Gage said the combination of Bailey and Harris in the post was a big factor in taking the early lead.
“I thought they did well for us and kind of set the tone,” Gage said. “And at times that they made runs, I thought we did a decent job responding.”
Central opened the fourth on a 17-8 run to take a nine-point lead. Western continued to battle and would not let Central pull away, but was unable to cut the lead to less than four the rest of the way.
Gage said Jones and Cameron’s transition game in the second half was a major key to holding off Western.
“By far the best game for both of them,” Gage said. “I thought they did a good job of dribble penetration and setting up other people, too. To give ourselves a chance as we move forward, we’ve got to do the same thing.”
A third-quarter surge helped power Harnett Central to a 51-18 win over Western Harnett in the girls game.
“We did come out and play well in the third quarter,” said Harnett Central girls coach Chelsey Cabe. “We had a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting at halftime. It’s not that we played terrible in the first half. I just want to see them play with intensity and hustle and together and having fun. Because when you play like that, that’s what makes basketball fun. So, that was what we talked about at halftime. And I left for a bit and came back to them and I saw that they took that seriously. I’m proud of their leadership and that they saw what I was saying, they took responsibility and they came out and played like that in the second half.”
Western Harnett girls coach Matthew Smith said the effort was there, but not the execution.
“The third quarter kind of hit us in the head,” Smith said. “We didn’t execute well. I’m not disappointed with the girls. They gave everything they had. We had a really good practice yesterday. I’m going to give them off tomorrow to kind of heal up some injuries and get some mental rest. Overall, Harnett Central’s a good team. We got out there, we took a few of their punches and we tried to come back. Tonight, they were the better team.”
Senior Syniah McMiller gave the Trojans (4-2, 2-2) a scare, having to be helped off the court after an apparent lower-back injury after a hard fall midway through the second quarter. She had six points at the time. She later returned midway through the third quarter and tallied 14 points after returning, totaling 20 to lead all scorers.
“When she sets her mind to something and she’s trying to prove something, that’s really fun to watch,” Cabe said. “But I was very worried about her. I’m thankful, not only for the basketball season, but for her future.”
Lya Molyneaux had 12 points. Brittany Mills had 11 points. Shay Ward had seven points. Jamia Harrington had one point.
Cabe was pleased with the efforts of junior Ivanna Jones, particularly on defense.
“Ivanna is the best defensive player and she is, honestly, the smartest girl on the floor,” Cabe said. “If someone is out of place, she’s putting everyone, ‘OK, you’re supposed to be here. You make sure you shade.’ It’s a constant communication offensively and defensively. To think that I had to talk her into playing basketball this year. I’m super thankful for what she does.”
The Eagles (4-5, 1-5) were led on offense by the Mackey sisters. Junior Makenyia Mackey had seven points and senior Makyia Mackey had six points.
Trinity Gaither and Savana Johnson had two points apiece and Shay McCantis had one point.
Central outscored Western in all four quarters: 12-5 in the first, 6-3 in the second, 17-5 in the third and 16-5 in the fourth.
Harnett Central has back-to-back games against conference opponent Lee County, traveling to Lee on Wednesday and hosting Lee on Friday.
Western Harnett travels to county and conference rival Triton on Friday.